JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Republican lawmakers are again seeking to restrict the Medicaid expansion voters approved in 2020, proposing work requirements for the estimated 275,000 low-income Missourians newly eligible for the health care program. A constitutional amendment filed in the General Assembly this week by House Budget Chair Cody Smith would make funding for that group of recipients subject to annual review, separating them from overall support for the traditional Medicaid program. It is the latest attempt by Missouri Republicans to curb the expansion of the program to working adults witho...
Molly Meacher's voice quivers with emotion as she tells how her aunt took her own life after her liver cancer tumour grew to the size of a football.
"One night, she took a whole lot of pills and whisky, and her husband found her dead in the morning," said Meacher, a member of British parliament's upper House of Lords.
"It seemed to me terribly sad that somebody would end their life alone in the middle of the night without even their dear husband knowing that this was what they were doing," she told AFP.
Meacher, 81, has drafted a law to legalize assisted dying in England for the terminally ill with less than six months to live, an act currently punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
"It just was clear to me that this was just inhumane. You wouldn't treat a dog or a cat like that. But we treat our own people like that," said the former social worker.
The UK parliament examined the question of assisted dying in 2015 and decided against legalizing it, but since then other countries have decided to approve what many see as an act of mercy.
"Things are moving in the right direction, there are a number of British Isles jurisdictions that are looking at changing the law," said Sarah Wootton, head of the Dignity in Dying campaign group.
Last September, the influential British Medical Association ended its opposition to "physician-assisted dying", taking the "historic step" of adopting a neutral position.
According to a poll by YouGov, 73 percent of Britons questioned in August said that doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die.
By contrast, only 35 percent of MPs approved.
Campaigner Alex Pandolfo says the law "needs changing immediately (because) of the discriminatory practice that takes place in this country".
"It actually exists already for the privileged," says Pandolfo, in his 60s and terminally ill with Alzheimer's.
If you have £10,000 (about 12,000 euros, 13,500 dollars) for flights, hotels and food, you can go to a country such as Switzerland to die, he said.
Pandolfo has already booked his assisted death at a Swiss clinic and in recent years has accompanied around 100 Britons to die in Switzerland.
But he would rather die in England, to be near loved ones and allow them to have a more natural grieving process.
"I'm in no hurry," he jokes, saying he was given "a death sentence" in 2015.
"I am already dying of a condition that I've got no control over," he said.
"All I'm asking for is somebody to assist me with that death when it will be unbearable, to accelerate things. It's a rational act."
Sitting on his sofa in Lancaster, northwest England, the white-haired Pandolfo says his illness has already had a "massive impact" on his quality of life.
It affects his memory, movement, ability to speak and drive, and watch a football match.
As a result, he would never qualify for assisted dying under the terms of the draft law before parliament, which he says is "extremely restricted".
"By the time I've got six months to live, I won't have capacity to say that I want assisted dying," he said.
Meacher said her bill's restrictions are "a political decision based on realities" in a "fairly conservative country", particularly where religious leaders and the faithful are involved.
"It's pretty hard to get a bill through parliament with these rather narrow limits," she said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told parliament that euthanasia could expose the most vulnerable to unacceptable pressure to die from some "loved ones".
Welby, the most senior cleric in the worldwide Anglican communion, also told the BBC that "sadly people make mistakes in their diagnosis".
Meacher's bill "has done a great job at raising the issue," said Wootton.
While it will not necessarily become law a similar bill before the Scottish Parliament has much more chance of success "within a year-and-a-half", she said.
"It will be very difficult for medical regulators to have something lawful in one part of the country and not lawful in other parts of the country.
"I think that's an unsustainable situation in the long term."
Similar draft laws are being looked at in the self-governing Crown dependencies of Jersey and the Isle of Man.
Even strictly Roman Catholic neighbor Ireland is studying the possibility of euthanasia, giving people like Pandolfo a measure of hope.
Once he had his place booked in Switzerland, Pandolfo said: "I stopped worrying about dying and suffering and started focusing and concentrating on enjoying what life can."
© 2022 AFP
If you choose to believe Fox News and right-wing social media, this weekend a 40-mile long "Freedom Convoy" of 50,000 Canadian truckers, plus millions of their supporters, will converge in Ottawa — our northern neighbor's capital — for a mass protest that will gridlock the city until all of the country's vaccine mandates are repealed.
The anti-vaccination convoy movement has raised some $7 million, and earned the support of Canadian conservative Parliament leader Erin O'Toole, who says he plans to meet with the truckers, as well as prominent American conservatives or libertarians from Donald Trump Jr. and Tucker Carlson to Elon Musk. Videos of the convoy have proliferated online, most depicting lines of tractor-trailers driving across Canada, variously set to dramatic film scores or Twisted Sister, and cheered on by throngs of spectators waving the Maple Leaf flag on highway shoulders and overpasses. Other images and videos have popped up too, showcasing the efforts of convoy supporters, including a sort of women's auxiliary unit singing "O Canada" while assembling sandwiches for the truckers.
But in the last couple of days, research and reporting has emerged that suggests the convoy, ripe as it is for gags about the polite or earnest nature of Canadians, could spell trouble. On Friday, Ottawa police asked residents of the city to avoid traveling downtown on Saturday. Security officials at Canada's House of Commons warned that demonstrators have been searching for the home addresses of members of Parliament. Groups that track the far right have warned that the convoy movement is sparking violent rhetoric online, including calls for the demonstration to replicate the U.S. Capitol attack of Jan. 6, 2021, and for drivers to use their trucks to ram into the barricades around the Parliament building.
Reporters and researchers have also pointed out that the convoy movement is inextricably tied to Canadian far-right groups, including members of radical, neo-Nazi-linked "accelerationist" networks, Holocaust deniers and supporters of the white nationalist Great Replacement theory, "sovereign citizen" types with quixotic plans to dissolve the Canadian government and, of course, QAnon adherents.
As one leading Canadian research group, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN), noted in an article published Thursday, "Since the start of the pandemic, COVID conspiracies have been bringing various fringe and far-right elements together. The close connections between the People's Party of Canada, the young white supremacists of Canada First, and the Diagolon network is one example. This convoy is another."
On the eve of the convoy's arrival in Ottawa, CAHN's executive director Evan Balgord spoke with Salon.
So what's going on with this convoy?
I'll dispel one myth right away. A lot of folks are saying that this was some sort of trucker convoy that was hijacked by the far right. That's not actually true. Canada was going to have a requirement that cross-border truck drivers get vaccinated. We already have a mandate that some public servants have to be vaccinated, like nurses and doctors, and that's fairly uncontroversial. But a small number of truckers and some trucking organizations pointed out that, because the average Canadian trucker is alone in their trucks all day, why do they have to get vaccinated when they're largely self-isolating because of their work? Agree with it or not, that seems like a reasonable thing to have a conversation about. So the trucking organizations were asking the government to talk about this mandate. And the far right spotted this and just stole it — stole the idea and decided to have a convoy about it.
About two years ago, [the organizers] had another convoy called United We Roll. It was a far-right convoy. It was all the same kind of people that we monitor at CAHN. So they stole this grievance and put together this convoy. We have these organizers on record making Islamophobic statements. One of the loudest, Pat King, has made many racist and antisemitic statements and called for violence in the past. One of the main organizers of the group that's sort of behind the convoy, Canada Unity, is run in part by a guy named James Bauder, who was involved in our Yellow Vest Canada movement. He's previously expressed support for a bunch of different hate groups. He said that [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau needs to be arrested and charged with treason. He and some other people got together to do this convoy, so it's been a far-right project from day one.
Now their GoFundMe has raised around $7 million, and the actual convoy is about to descend on Ottawa. Of course it's not 50,000 trucks or whatever ridiculous thing Fox News was saying. It's probably 100 to 200 actual trucks and then a bunch of other vehicles. But it's significant. Some people are saying they want it to be Canada's Jan. 6. So it's concerning.
What should people expect to see in Ottawa this weekend?
I'll make one hard prediction. The irony to me in all this is the truckers actually had a kind of issue. But because the far right stole the issue, and the convoy has come to represent far-right extremism, there's no way those truckers or the trucking organizations can have an adult conversation with our government now. They've been totally fucked by this convoy.
If you look at the list of demands that Canada Unity put out in this memorandum of understanding, they're asking that the vaccine passport system and mandates just be done away with across Canada. That's everything from getting on a plane to eating at a restaurant. There's just no way that our government is going to do that. Then they've added on all these other grievances. Some people want to see a Jan. 6. Some people want Trudeau tried for treason. Some people showing up are "sovereign citizens," who believe that using some magic combination of words and pseudo-legal paperwork is going to dissolve the government. And of course, there's the others who are just saying no vaccine mandates whatsoever. None of this is going to happen. So one prediction I'm damn sure of is that they're not going to achieve anything, public policy-wise.
But in terms of what actually happens — it's not like we don't have people who want to do a Jan. 6 here. We do, and they're always around. I don't think something like that is going to happen. Jan. 6 was fairly well planned. Not everybody there was part of that plan, and different groups had different plans, but there was significant planning behind it. I don't know that that planning is taking place here. Then there's the fact that all of our lawmakers and our prime minister aren't actually there right now. And in Ottawa, on Parliament Hill, we have concrete barriers to prevent ramming attacks and a gigantic lawn in front of our Parliament building. All of which, I believe, means it's a lot harder to storm.
But we are telling people who live in Ottawa to stay away this weekend and try not to go outside if they can avoid it. I feel really awful giving that advice. But, you know, there are people among this big convoy who are racists. There are people in this convoy who want to do violence to others. I'm not saying everybody's like that. But they'll be finally reaching their target, the thing they're maddest at, Ottawa, and there's a crowd, there's a mob. So you don't know how things can go.
Maybe there's some violence. Hopefully not. Best-case scenario is just they honk their horns, annoy the hell out of everybody, achieve nothing and then have to go home. A lot of businesses are actually closing up for the day. And there's no public washrooms in Ottawa. They're not going to have anywhere to poop. Sorry to be crass about it. But they're not going to find a warm reception there.
There are a lot of videos online that claim to show hundreds or thousands of trucks on their way to Ottawa. And there are videos claiming to show sympathy protests in different countries around the world. How accurate are the depictions of this movement on social or right-wing media?
I have no idea of anything else happening in other countries. I certainly haven't seen any evidence of that. In terms of people supporting them, for all intents and purposes, this is an anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown crowd. And we've got a lot of them, just like the States has a lot of them, just like many countries have a lot of them. They've thrown all their support behind this, and it's not just a few bad apples, either. Every single hate group, far-right group we monitor is involved in this in some way, shape or form, pretty vocally.
There's very much two Canadas right now. There's the Canada that is for health and public science and all of that. And then there's the far right, which is not. But if anyone's talking about massive levels of support, I'd point out that 90% of our truckers are vaccinated. A lot of our truckers here are South Asian, and I don't see them participating in this convoy in numbers that would be representative. So this isn't about truckers, or the specific issue that truckers had. It's just a far-right thing.
Is this America's fault? Did we do this to you guys?
Not entirely. Canada has had its own unique hate ecosystem forever. What you do in the States does definitely strongly impact us. Of course it does. But it works both ways. I mean, stop me if you've heard the names Gavin McInnes, Lauren Southern, Faith Goldy or Stefan Molyneux before. And you know, AltRight.com, the website, was created in a Toronto apartment; Richard Spencer was living in Toronto at the time. Canada has a disproportionate impact on the States and the rest of the world when it comes to putting out thought leaders in these fascist movements as well. So it's not just the States' fault. We have to own up to our own racist, genocidal history and the systems of white supremacy that we have here as well.
But for American readers, describing the people on the overpasses — they're somewhere between, or an amalgamation of, MAGA and Jan. 6. Meaning, with Jan. 6, there were some people that got really organized and wanted to do what happened, or even worse. And then there were plenty of people who were just there and got swept up and started to participate because somebody lit that match. With the convoy, it's similar: Not everybody that's there is a racist who wants to do violence. But there's elements of that in there. Every single hate group and insurrectionary element that we have in our country is there, or is supporting it from the sidelines. So it does create a volatile situation. I don't think we're quite at critical mass. We don't have all the right ingredients, I think, to make this a Jan. 6. But the point is, there's people here who want it to be.
An ailing young whale found near the coast of Athens in a rare sighting has returned to deeper waters after receiving medication, Greek officials said on Saturday.
The male Cuvier's beaked whale is now swimming near the southern island of Salamis, deputy environment minister Georgios Amyras told state TV ERT, adding that its condition remained precarious.
The dolphin-like whale, which normally lives in waters more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) deep, was first spotted near the Athens coast on Thursday.
On Friday, wildlife experts and lifeguards were mobilized after it reached the shallows of a popular beach in the Athens suburb of Palio Faliro.
The whale was hydrated and given antibiotics and after several hours it was escorted to the open sea late on Friday, Amyras said.
"This is a deep sea animal...the longer it stays in shallow waters, the greater the damage to its health," he said.
Cuvier's beaked whales can dive up to 4,000 meters and usually grow to up to seven meters (23 feet) in length.
Natascha Komninou, a professor at the University of Thessaloniki and head of the Arion cetacean rescue centre, told Skai TV the whale had a badly wounded lower jaw and blood tests showed it suffered from anaemia.
"With such a major injury, things are difficult," she said.
Cuvier's beaked whales often fall prey to ship propellers, but they are also acutely sensitive to "noise pollution" from human activity, Komninou added.
Alexandros Frantzis, a marine biologist at the non-profit Pelagos Institute, this week said the whale could have become disoriented due to ongoing seismic research for hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Kyparissia in western Greece, one of the mammal's main habitats.
"It's one of the four most important habitats in the world for these animals."
"We are destroying their home...for hydrocarbons," Frantzis told ERT.
Although sightings of live whales are extremely unusual in Athens, whale carcasses occasionally wash up, mainly in the Greek islands.
A dead Cuvier's beaked whale was discovered on a small island near Crete in 2016, and another one was found on the island of Naxos the following year.
© 2022 AFP